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Science Technology

NIAC Selects 2005 Phase I Winners 50

Pooua writes "The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts (NIAC) has selected its 2005 Phase 1 awards winners. Two of my favorite winners from this year are 'Extraction of Antiparticles Concentrated in Planetary Magnetic Fields' and 'A Deep Field Infrared Observatory Near the Lunar Pole.' A brief summary of the awards is available at Spacedaily. The NIAC Website lists links to PDF articles of all their funded studies (past and current). Slashdot covered NAIC awards winners last year."
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NIAC Selects 2005 Phase I Winners

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  • Anyone have a link that doesn't try to pop up fastclick crap and also try to lock you in by auto-forwarding you a few levels in?

    That said, I thought Artificial Neural Membrane Flapping Wing was pretty interesting. Penguins are looking forward to the possibility of finally putting those puffins in their place.
  • by FunWithHeadlines ( 644929 ) on Thursday June 16, 2005 @10:22AM (#12832049) Homepage
    "So, George, what is it we do here at NIAC? Besides collecting our paychecks, that is? Pass me the corn chips, by the way."

    "Well, Bob, think about the title of the place. National Instute of Advanced Concepts. That's a clue, ya think?"

    "All right, quit the sarcasm, buddy. Advanced concepts, huh? Like what? How to find the missing laundry sock, or where all my ballpoint pens go?"

    "No, Bob, Douglas Adams already solved those mysteries. Nothing advanced about them any more."

    "So like what? Here's a concept: Let's give out awards! Like it?"

    "Uhhhh....lacks a certain something. Awards shows are a dime a dozen nowadays. Catch the MTV awards the other day?"

    "Yeah, what a rush to see the Breakfast Club bunch again. OK, so what if we tweak these awards. Let's give them a funky name that will fool the ignorant. How about the Advanced Awards? Heh, nifty right?"

    "Naaah, too obvious. How about the Stupendous Awards?"

    "Man, you need to get out more often. No, we need something obscure....wait, I got it. We'll call it the Phase I Awards!"

    "What's the Phase I bit about?"

    "Beats me, but it sounds intimidating if you don't know better, and that's all that counts in science."

    "Hehe, you devil you, I like it. Now that's an advanced concept!"

    "Pass me the beer, willya"

  • Personally, I prefer the idea [] of controlling the global weather [].

    Putting aside the intricacies of controlling such a chaotic enviroment, the impact on an Englishman's typical conversation would be astounding.

    Would we be able to adapt?

    What would we talk about?
  • Dyslexics of the world are excited to hear about a new Apple product.

    Apple introduces the new iNac and has selected 2005 Winners!

    Oh what is it? Who won?

    ack... As I read further on, it has nothing to do with Apple. But you did get me at first.

    Because I didn't RTFA the headline grabbed my attention.

  • Antimatter (Score:3, Funny)

    by th1ckasabr1ck ( 752151 ) on Thursday June 16, 2005 @10:34AM (#12832129)
    This one has some serious potential: "Antimatter Harvesting in Space"

    Imagine the awesome bombs and stuff we could build.

  • by mister_llah ( 891540 ) on Thursday June 16, 2005 @10:37AM (#12832149) Homepage Journal
    It is important to dream and look far ahead, even if the ideas seem ridiculous, some may prove fruitful...

    I think not enough importance is given to considering theoretical science such as this and would love to see NASA put less funding into getting us to land on the moon again and more funding into things which will allow us to, possibly, get to Mars or further...
  • by PIPBoy3000 ( 619296 ) on Thursday June 16, 2005 @10:40AM (#12832167)
    This is quite an interesting proposal. Of course, 10 micrograms of antiprotons is still a tiny amount. I ran across this web site [] that talks about antimatter as a propulsion mechanism. That would probably get a robotic probe someplace pretty quick. Still, how quickly does this resource replenish itself? Every year? Every century? Hopefully it won't be like our oil reserves.

    Of course, as the article points out, you could always send robotic miners to the Jovian moons. Antimatter is probably the most valuable substance by weight in the solar system.

    For those who don't want to open up the PDF, here's the abstract for the antimatter recovery scheme:
    Small quantities of antimatter (nanograms to micograms) have enormous potential in a variety of space, medical, and sensing applications. However, due to the high intrinsic cost of production, such applications have not yet been realized. Antiprotons are currently produced during high energy collisions in large particle accelerators. Based on current capabilities, the electricity cost alone for the process is estimated to be $160 trillion per gram collected. In comparison, high energy cosmic rays bombard the Earth's upper atmosphere and produce the antiprotons naturally through pair production. A fraction of these are subsequently concentrated within the Van Allen radiation belts of the Earth similar to their standard matter counterparts. Satellite and high altitude balloon measurements have confirmed the fractional existences of antimatter in the normal background of ionizing radiation. As particles are lost through diffusion processes, new ones are generated to maintain a quasi-static supply trapped in the near dipole field of the Earth. Based on preliminary calculations, it is estimated that 10 micrograms of antiprotons and 10 milligrams of positrons are locally contained within the Earth's magnetosphere at any given time. The Jovian planets with their strong magnetic fields are expected to contain significantly more within their radiation belts. Draper Laboratory and its collaborators propose to use a magnetic scoop to extract large quantities of these trapped antiparticles. The principles of a Bussard magnetic scoop, first proposed for relativistic propulsion, will be adapted for use on a satellite in a planetary orbit. Particles bouncing between mirror points near the planet's poles will pass through and be concentrated by the superimposed magnetic field. Separation and cooling techniques from particle accelerators will be adapted for extracting and separating the desired particles from the radiation flux near the satellite.
  • Extraction of Antiparticles Concentrated in Planetary Magnetic Fields

    sounds like a pink floyd tune....
  • sure this story isn't about the patent office? :-)
  • The NASA Institute for Advanced Concepts? How about an award for acronyms within acronyms? Better yet, award someone with a better name for this organization. :P
    • This is just proof that NASA is trailing the FOSS community when it comes to acronyms. How about:

      GUG [] - the GIMP User Group, derived from

      GIMP [] - the GNU Image Manipulation Program, derived from

      GNU [] - a recursive acronym for GNU's Not UNIX.

      If you thought that was impressive, how about the HURD []. HURD stands for "HIRD of Unix Replacing Daemons", and HIRD stands for "HURD of Interfaces Representing Depth". That's TWO MUTUALLY RECURSIVE ACRONYMS!

      Yes, NASA are definitely behind the times.

  • 'A Deep Field Infrared Observatory Near the Lunar Pole.'

    Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live there.

  • The P.I. for the "Deep Field Infrared Observatory Near the Lunar Pole" is... Roger Angel. No, not the baseball writer, the two-ell angel, but the astronomer and telescope designer from the U of A who pioneered using spun-molten-glass as a means of making huge, thin mirrors.

    Here's a story from Universe Today [] and one from [].
    • Erm... That'll be spun-liquid-metal as a means of making huge mirrors, then. Not glass. Unless you know something those articles don't...
      • In future, maybe. What (little) I know of Roger Angel's existing, completed work involves spin-casting glass, see for example
        Stewart Observatory [],

        These mirrors are a radical departure from the conventional solid-glass mirrors used in the past. They are honeycomb on the inside; made out of Ohara E6-type borosilicate glass that is melted, molded and spun cast into the shape of a paraboloid in a custom-designed rotating oven.

        (emphasis added)

  • I often wondered where the Federation gets all that antimatter for their spaceships to run on. Now we know: it's collected from magnetospheric convergence zones or some such [tech].

    (Hmmm, we know from "The Doomsday Machine" that the implosion of a Constitution-class ship's engine yields a measly 400-odd megatons, which probably represents about the mass of, say, a shirt button. But that's still a whole lotta antiparticles, given the nature of the things.)
  • Thats 6 months salary and ovehead for a single mid-level engineer.

Long computations which yield zero are probably all for naught.